LaWanda (Yates) Johnson

LaWanda (Yates) Johnson began her journey to heaven Nov. 27, 2013 with her husband and children by her side. Born and raised Aug. 2, 1931 in Luther, to Naomi and Alvin Yates, she graduated from Red Lodge High School and attended MSU Bozeman where she was a member of Chi Omega sorority and met her husband, Willard Johnson. She liked to say that “she went to college to get her “Mrs.” degree.” Willard and LaWanda were married Oct. 25, 1951 in Lexington, Mass., and returned to Billings in 1953.

With a 63-year marriage to Willard, her life was centered around family and friends. She was known for her love of cooking, sharing meals and entertaining. There was always a meal on the table and second helpings for anyone who wanted them. In 1963, she was runner up for Mrs. Montana where her personality, beauty and Spice Cake captured the judges. She is survived by her husband, Willard, and their children, Karen Johnson of Roberts; Don Johnson of Fort Collins, Colo.; Viki Mann of Louisville, Colo.; Gordon (Linda) Johnson of Bozeman; brothers Alvin and Ron Yates of Red Lodge; sister Margo Romine, Salt Lake City, Utah; six granddaughters; one grandson and one great granddaughter.

She had a passion for the great outdoors and after growing up on a ranch in Luther, where her father Alvin Yates taught her to hunt and fish, she passed her outdoor passion onto her family. The entire family carries on her love of the outdoors through fishing, hunting, gardening, camping, skiing, hiking, golfing and horses. She and Willard also enjoyed their time traveling and exploring the country and visiting with friends in their RV.

LaWanda was very active in community services and was previously a 4-H leader, President of the Billings Jayceens, President of the Supporting Cast at the Billings Studio Theater, active member of P.E.O. Chapter S, volunteer at Alberta Bair Theater, and a member of the Ladies Golf Association at the Yellowstone Country Club.

While her children were young, LaWanda performed secretarial work for Willard’s architectural firm. She then joined Manpower and worked for numerous businesses in the Billings area. Later in life, she joined a dear friend in a wall papering business. She also worked for the First Interstate Bank for numerous years in operations until her retirement.

The Johnson family would like to extend their appreciation to the compassionate caring doctors, nurses and staff at the Billings Clinic. This remarkable team of experts helped LaWanda feel comfortable and restful during her transition time.

Memorial services were held at 2 p.m., on Monday, Dec. 2, at the First Presbyterian Church in Billings. Cremation has taken place and there will be a spring burial at the John Henry Cemetery outside of Red Lodge. Memorials can be sent to the P.E.O Chapter S, 2751 Gregory Drive, Billings, MT 59102 or to the First Presbyterian Church. Remembrances may be shared online at